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Daily Devotion for July 24, 2014

Vanity of vanities | Ecclesiastes 1



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Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


To Take up the Shield of Faith

Heavenly Father, let me take up the shield of faith this morning and carry it before me throughout the day. For the darkness of the world attacks my soul from every direction.

The world wants me to hate myself and hate you, precious Lord. It tries at every turn to seduce me to the emptiness of revenge. It lures me to the love of money. Envy, anger, and vanity are the traps it sets. It tells me to worship myself until I am hollow. Pride is its bait, and death is its reward.

Defend me, I pray, against the constant assault of impurity that life in the world brings. Great and powerful God, I take up your shield, the only shield that can protect me: my hope and certainty that your love and promise to protect me, for all eternity, will be with me for the asking. For the only truth is yours, the only power is yours, and our only hope lies in you, our true and mighty and loving God. In Christ's name I pray,


To Speak in Sympathy

Lord God, I pray that you will give me the strength to speak up for the woebegotten and those isolated in any way, even when no other person will; let me refrain from the unkind silence created in a hard heart, the unkind silence that clouds the bright sunshine of human sympathy and truth. Give me strength to be the first to speak the tender word of healing and friendship; make your Spirit powerful in my heart, that I may not remain silent when Christian love requires that something be said. And give me a sense of purpose, that I might actively forge the bonds of love among my brothers and sisters in Christ; this I ask in His name,



[Give me the strength to speak, when something must be said.]


Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked will I return. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.

Cross by Michael Keck, contemporary.
Cross by Michael Keck, contemporary.

Walk in the Light

Walk in the light, the beautiful light.
Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright.
Shine all around us by day and by night.
Jesus, the light of the world.

~ Mrs. J. V. Coombs (1890)

Blue Latin Cross

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (NKJV)

The Wisdom of Solomon - Ecclesiastes

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever.

The sun also rises, and the sun goes down,
And hastens to the place where it arose.
The wind goes toward the south,
And turns around to the north;
The wind whirls about continually,
And comes again on its circuit.

All the rivers run into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full;
To the place from which the rivers come,
There they return again.
All things are full of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said,
“See, this is new”?

It has already been in ancient times before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come
By those who will come after.

Notes on the Scripture

Ecclesiastes (not to be confused with EcclesiasticusEcclesiasticus is an alternate title for a deuterocanonical book (in the Protestant Bible, part of the Apocrypha) better known as the Wisdom of Sirach, a wonderful book more similar to Proverbs than Ecclesiastes, but written too late (@ 200-150 B.C.) to be included in the Jewish canon.) like the other four “Wisdom” books of the Bible, is one of a kind. It is attributed to Solomon, who is identified as the author in verse 1 under a pseudonym, “the PreacherThe Greek word from which the title is taken, “ecclesiastes”, means a person who addresses a congregation or assembly. The word in the Hebrew Bible (Koheleth) means “one who gathers” and was used to refer to a teacher.”.

The beautiful opening poem — possibly the best part of the book — is a condensed thematic statement of following 12 chapters, expounding a nihilistic philosophy. “Vanity” is used to translate a Hebrew word with a wide range of meanings, such as “breath”, “vapor”, and “nothingness”.

The book is disjointed, rambling, repetitive, sometimes self-contradictory, and rather depressing; but also insightful, charming, and sporadically hypnotic. There is one other very beautiful and well-known poem at 3:1-8, beginning “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heavenThese verses were the basis for a song written by Pete Seeger in the 1950s, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”. It was recorded by the Byrds in 1965 and became an international hit.).”

The body of the book alternates between two apparently contradictory themes. First, that everything we are and everything we do is transitory, repetitive, and ultimately forgotten. The theme (which, in theological terms, treads perilously close to Buddhism) has formed the basis of numerous artistic works, from pop music — notably “Dust in the Wind”, a 1977 hit by Kansas — to some of the best-known English romantic poetry (e.g. Ozymandias by Shelley and Keats' Odes), and became very popular among various 20th-century philosophers.

The second theme reminds us of Greek Epicurean philosophy: that we should enjoy the good things in life, even though they have no ultimate meaning, for that is all we have. These “good things” range from virtues, such as wisdom, to the enjoyment of friendship and a good meal.

Both concepts are theologically contrary to Christian belief. In a theological sense, Ecclesiastes redeems its apparent nihilist/Epicurean outlook — which cover 12 long chapters — by the short statement of the final two verses:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.

For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.”

These verses seem abrupt and disconcerting. They present a diametrically different concept from the text, with no preparation. One might speculate that they were tacked on, to rescue Ecclesiastes from the dustbin of heresy.

Yet they do sound like Solomon's thoughts. As we know from other works, Solomon was far ahead of his time in his anticipation of aspects of Christian theology. He was by no means a messianic prophet; the coming of a Redeemer does not figure in his work. But even so, he seemed to gaze ahead to a time of ultimate judgment by God, along with mercy and forgiveness for those who believe in Him.

endless knot

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Galatians 5:26 (J.B. Phillips NT): Let us not be ambitious for our own reputations, for that only means making each other jealous.

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